How can I prevent a clogged drain?

plunger next to a clogged bathtub drain

Protect Your Plumbing

As a homeowner or even a renter, there are basic things to do to maintain a household. Mowing the lawn, changing the air filter, paying the utilities, and clogged drain prevention. The lawn, the air filter, and the utilities all make sense, but you may wonder why we listed clogged drain prevention

As Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, meaning it is easier to prevent something from happening than it is to repair it afterward. It is also less expensive. And that is where we stand on clogged drain prevention. If you can take the steps each day to prevent your drains from clogging, there won’t be that aggravating, usually ill-timed, clogged drain and backed-up sink to deal with. 

To be able to prevent clogged drains, knowing what causes a clogged drain can be helpful. While a clogged drain may seem more of an annoyance than anything, when drains are clogged and pipes are blocked for a period of time, major problems can quickly occur. The slow-draining water will lead to flooding and corrosion that can start because water is sitting inside metal pipes. Eight of the more common causes of a clogged drain are: 

  • HAIR: The biggest drain clogger is hair as it binds together with grease, soap scum, toothpaste, and other materials. The best clogged drain prevention for hair is to purchase drain guards and empty them daily. 
  • SOAP: As we just mentioned, hair easily binds with soap scum, and bar soap itself is the worse offender in soaps for clogged drains. They contain fat or grease and when mixed with the water, the minerals cause it to harden, creating what we know as soap scum. Your best clogged drain prevention is to use a bath soap that doesn’t contain these greases or fats. 
  • DIRT: Yes, you’re going to wash off dirt as you wash your hands, but before you do, shake off the excess. You may think your drain and pipes are there for washing anything away. But while you want to get excess dirt off you and your clothes, it can build up and cause issues in your drains. A simple step in clogged drain prevention is to shake off and then rinse any excess dirt and mud from your clothes and body outside before washing them inside.
  • FOOD WASTE: The biggest clogged drain prevention you can practice is to not put food into a drain. Even with a garbage disposal, you should be cautious of what you’re putting in there. Coffee grounds, tea leaves, noodles, fat, grease, and oil are some of the worst things you can put in a drain. 
  • MINERAL BUILDUP: Minerals are in our water and that creates hard water, leading to unsolvable masses that clog drains fast. One solution that can count as clogged drain prevention is to install a water softener. If that isn’t doable, you should have a professional plumber come descale your drains pipes every four to six months. 
  • SMALL OBJECTS: This can be a problem in homes with small children, but small objects flushed or washed down the drain can cause major havoc to your plumbing. Be sure to instruct your children to flush nothing more than human waste and toilet paper. There are toilet lid locks that are a great clogged drain prevention method if you’re having this issue.
  • EXCESS TOILET PAPER: Another common drain clogging problem in households with children is using too much toilet paper. Most of the time, a plunger will help shift the wads of toilet paper and get them flushed on through, but sometimes, it will take the services of a professional plumber. 
  • TREE ROOTS: The sewer lines running underground will age and the ground shifting will cause them to crack. This can leak moisture, and that attracts tree roots. The tree roots then force their way into the cracks and clog the sewer line. This is usually remedied by having your sewer line pressure jet cleaned.  Keeping an eye on how your trees are growing and trying to anticipate tree roots growing into pipes is one method for clogged drain prevention. 

Can a clogged drain cause a leak?

Oh yes, a clogged drain can definitely cause a leak – among other things!  The six most common repercussions of clogged drains that clogged drain prevention steps can help you avoid are: 


Any pipe that is clogged at the drain can cause leaks to any plumbing fixture connected to the drain. This includes the bathtubs, garbage disposal, sinks, and toilets. A clogged drain will cause water to back up because it has nowhere to go. Then the standing water will start leaking through the caulking and seals, and you may not even realize this when it happens. So it leaks undetected for a while, damaging anything around like wood shelves or flooring, and then mold forms and spreads, causing more damage.


A lot of different things are put down your drains including food, gunk, hair, and other waste. These things bind up and can cause a drain clog to accumulate, and then bacteria forms, then the odor starts. That odor won’t stay in the drain; it will permeate throughout your house, which can be embarrassing when you have guests.


A clogged drain from waste buildup can increase the chance of water contamination because it is passing through the waste and bacteria in your pipes. Any water stuck in the pipes will backflow, creating dirty drinking water.  


A clogged drain and a blocked pipe will produce stagnant water, and that attracts insects. Insects like mosquitoes live in stagnant water, breeding and laying eggs. The standing water in a clogged drain is food for insects too, so they have found a 24/7 buffet.  Other than mosquitos, cockroaches, drain flies, fruit flies, and phorid flies are all drain clog insects. 


Bacteria form in a clogged drain, and this will contaminate water, which can also create mold and breed disease-carrying insects, all posing a serious health risk to your home for you and your family. Health issues that are associated with water from clogged drains include campylobacteriosis, typhoid, and Legionnaires’ disease. Many people will suffer from peptic ulcers in the lining of their stomach. The airborne mold spores can cause respiratory problems and affect the nervous system too. 


As we have mentioned, clogged drains can cause water to backflow. This backflow water will soak into the foundation, damaging it and weakening it. Cracked foundations are breeding grounds for more insects, including wood-destroying insects like termites.  

What can I pour down a drain to unclog it?

One of the best clogged drain cleaners is in your kitchen: baking soda, vinegar, and water. Pour a half cup of baking soda into the drain followed by a half cup of vinegar, and then plug off the drain immediately with a rag. This mixture will bubble up, and then dissolve the clog. Wait one hour and pour a full pot of boiling hot water down the drain, and then let water from the tap run for three to five minutes. 
And what is the best homemade remedy for clogged drains? You can do the process we described above with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water once a month as a clogged drain prevention step in all of your sinks, showers, and tubs. You can also use a cup of baking soda, a cup of table salt, and a cup of white vinegar all poured into the drain together. After ten minutes, pour boiling water into the drain to flush.

Can plunging make a clog worse?

If too much force is applied in the plunging process, it can damage the line and p-trap. While some force is needed, it is advised to plunge for a limited amount of time before deciding another method is needed or choosing to call a plumber. 

close-up of a sink drain being plunged

In Closing – What To Do if Your Drain Won’t Unclog

Knowing some things you can do and how to unclog a completely clogged drain is important for daily household life and can save you money by not having to call a plumber. In addition to following the clogged drain prevention steps we’ve mentioned here, there are some other things to remember.

Can you use drain cleaner with standing water? A professional plumber will advise against using any chemical drain cleaner ever. Why? It can damage the pipes if used repeatedly, and if you’re pouring it into a drain where there is standing water, it can splash back up in your face. The same is true with the splash if you plunge the drain after pouring a drain cleaner into the sink or tub. However, sometimes, it is a desperate means for desperate times, so if you find that this is the only option you have, wear protective eyewear and gloves. Make sure you are following the manufacturer’s instructions all the way through.